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Title: Systems, Signs, and Pragmatism in Recent American Fiction
Author: Williamson, Ben Patrick
ISNI:       0000 0001 3569 5912
Awarding Body: University of the West of England
Current Institution: University of the West of England, Bristol
Date of Award: 2007
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TIlls thesis identifies and interrogates the correspondences between American pragma~st philosophy and four recent American novels produced at a time when postmodernist literary theory is being questioned as a theoretical strategy for analyzing literary fiction. TIle texts are David Foster \Vallace's 1996 Il1fil1ite Jest, Neal Stephenson's 1999 CtJPtoflo!lJieOl1, Mark Z. Danielewski's 2000 HOllse ofLeaves, and Jonathan Franzen's 2001 The Cometiol1s. :My aim is to show that as aspects of postrnodernist literary criticism and theory have come under suspicion, it has become possible to identify how enduring pragmatist ideas, derived in particular from William James and C.S. Peirce, continue to underpin current American thinking. I examine the ways in which pragmatist ideas operate as intertextual contact points in the four novels under scrutiny. Additionally, I establish consonance between pragmatism and earlier Puritan American thinking, and query the ways in which the legacies of Puritan theology and pragmatist philosophy can be regarded as intellectual precedents to the distinctively American concerns and interests of these texts. In this context, I examine the ways in which aspects of contemporary American culture are represented in the novels, and identify their points of contact with this archive of pragmatist and Puritan thinking. The chapters of the thesis focus on specific representations of addiction and recovery, the American landscape, computerized languages, space and time, dle materiality of printed texts, asceticism and labour, and on the concept of authenticity. By analyzing these within the texts, I ramify their connections with the theories of language, semiotics, and experience which provide the framework for pragmatist philosophy. TI1!oughout, I offer readings of these novels to suggest both that pragmatism remains an operative syntax for American thinking, and that it is important to the analysis of literary texts. To date, this importance has been largely neglected in literary scholarship.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available